Area hospitals are making an effort to help people prevent or recover from a stroke, the debilitating event that most commonly occurs when a blood clot forms in an artery.

In Boulder County, Exempla Good Samaritan Medical Center in Lafayette has become a Primary Stroke Center, the first certified stroke center in the region. Boulder Community Hospital also is on the path to certification through the Joint Commission, a national, independent nonprofit group known in the industry for its evaluation and accreditation tools. The Joint Commission, based in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois, charges a fee to test a hospital to receive stroke certification.

Two other hospitals in the county — Longmont United Hospital in Longmont and Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville — do not have specific stroke certification programs, but are well equipped to help patients, before during and after a stroke.

Since receiving its certification, Exempla Good Sam estimates that it has doubled the number of stroke patients it sees, said Mary Seitenbach, a nurse and the hospital’s stroke coordinator, without giving specific numbers.

Time and education are key to helping potential stroke patients deal with an event, Seitenbach said. If a stroke patient comes in within two hours of the stroke happening, the hospital can give the patient a drug to dissolve that clot, and they may have fewer disabilities.

“If you can recognize it and treat it early, you improve their quality of life overall,” Seitenbach said.

Boulder Community Hospital has a neurologist on call 24-7 to physically examine potential stroke patients, said Kimber Goedert, the hospital’s stroke program coordinator. The hospital also has the capability to do interventional radiology, a procedure done to remove a blood clot from the brain of a patient, Goedert said.

Some key ways to minimize your risk for stroke — work on keeping blood pressure and weight on the low end of the scale. Control cholesterol through diet or drugs and moderate alcohol intake.


Gift for LiveWell

A big congratulations goes to skimeisters and Boulder residents Rob Katz and wife, Elana Amsterdam, who recently gave $1 million to LiveWell Colorado, a nonprofit group that wants to prevent obesity.

Katz is head of Vail Resorts Inc., which runs the ski resorts of Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Vail in Colorado and others outside of the state.

Katz and his family live in Boulder; Vail Resorts is based in Broomfield.

The personal gift will go to a school initiative to make sure kids in Colorado have healthy food at school by 2022, according to LiveWell.

Colorado is considered the leanest state in the country, with about 58 percent of all adults being classified as overweight or obese. But the state is ranked 23rd in the country for childhood obesity with the second-fastest rising childhood obesity rate in the country.

LiveWell funders and partners include the Colorado Health Foundation, Kaiser Permanente and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Can more Vail Resorts free and/or discounted ski passes for kids be far behind?


Reducing visits to ER

A Medicaid program designed to cut costs by having patients visit their doctors instead of going to a hospital emergency room, finished its first year with about 17,000 enrolled patients in Boulder, Broomfield, Gilpin, Clear Creek and Jefferson counties, according to a spokeswoman.

In 2012, the Regional Care Cooperative Organization, or RCCO, program plans to enroll another 43,000 potential users, since there are 60,000 or so Medicaid users in the region, said Abby Brookover, a spokeswoman for Physician Health Partners, the contract manager created to handle the program in the region.

In the past, state Medicaid reimbursements worked on a “fee for service” model in which doctors were reimbursed for patients’ visits and tests, said Marc Williams, a spokesman at the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, which is funding the program. Other RCCO programs are running in other parts of the state.

The new program basically pays health-care providers to keep their patients out of the emergency rooms. It has a complicated fee structure, but it basically pays health-care providers a set fee per month for patients who don’t use emergency room services. If patients use emergency room services, health-care providers are paid less.

“If we keep you healthier, you’ll be less expensive to maintain,” Williams said. “It’s like preventative maintenance on a car. If you burn your engine up, you’ll have a pretty healthy bill.”

There’s not much data yet on how many Medicaid patients went to doctors instead of emergency rooms in the first year of the program, but a bill approved at the end of this year’s state legislative session may yield some numbers by next June, Brookover said.

Beth Potter can be reached at 303-630-1944 or via email at bpotter@bcbr.com.